Ron Vlaar today revealed his World Cup agony after being put on the spot by his Dutch team-mates.
The Villa defender – outstanding in Sao Paulo during the 120 minutes of last night’s goalless semi-final with Argentina – bravely took the first spot-kick of the penalty shoot-out after two players failed to show Dutch courage and volunteer. Vlaar then saw his penalty saved by keeper Sergio Romero, who also denied Wesley Sneijder in the 4-2 shoot-out defeat.
“I’d never walk away from my responsibility. I wasn’t nervous, I was focused, but it must go in and it didn’t,” said Vlaar.
“We didn’t get the chance to score and that’s a shame.
“I know I had a good game but, in the end, you stand with your hands empty.
“It hurts so much. Our dream has burst. I did so much to get here.”
Louis Van Gaal signed Romero for AZ Alkmaar from Buenos Aires-based Racing Club in 2007.
“I taught Romero how to stop penalties (at Alkmaar), so that hurts,’’ joked the Netherlands coach.Van Gaal’s team were favourites to win the shoot-out after their penalty glory against Costa Rica.
But the new Manchester United boss struggled to find first-choice takers this time.
“We took those penalties in an incredible way against Costa Rica and it should give you confidence,” said Van Gaal.
“But the issue is you score the first one and I asked two players to take the first ball before ending up with Vlaar.
“He was the best player so should have had a lot of confidence.”
Despite his miss, Vlaar had a fine tournament and, with just a year left on his Villa contract, boss Paul Lambert could now face a battle to keep his captain –with Van Gaal’s United circling.
Holland now face Brazil in Saturday’s third-place play-off in Brasilia.